CELT document E650001-024

A Letter from the Lord Deputy-General of Ireland upon Surrender of Limerick, 1651

Henry Ireton

Edited by John T. Gilbert

Whole text


Ireton to Lenthal

For the most Honorable William Lenthal, Esq.; Speaker of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England.
Mr. Speaker,

It was no small Blessing in order to your Affairs here, nor without manifest appearances of the Power and Providence of God, That your Forces entrusted with me, got a passage over the River Shanon so early in the Summer. But that for the matter of it (to such as neither saw nor can have a clear Relation of the maner and Circumstances wherein God appeared) being rather but the making way for further progress in your Businesses, then a thing of visible effect in itself, and nothing since then considerable having been effected by that part of your Forces with me, save the taking of some few small Castles in Thomond, and possessing of others that were of advantage and consequence for you, with Garisons; and those things of the like, or other nature, wherein God hath blest the rest of your Forces and Parties in other Parts, having, I suppose, come to your knowledge more immediately from the several persons commanding them. I have forborn to trouble you with any immediate account from myself of what hath been done, but God, who having onely given some Testimonies of his continuing Favor to your Cause, and presence with your Servants here in the beginning of this Summer's Service (in the giving of such a seasonable and easie Passage to us over the Shanon) and therewith (in a few days more, the Possession or Command of almost all the Passes over it, when before we had not any) hath since seen it good to deny us thus long any further considerable effect in any thing, and to exercise our Faith and Patience with divers small Losses in the surprize of several small Garisons and Parties, by the lurching Enemy (mixt with the smaller Successes he hath given to any of your Forces, having now vouchsafed to Crown the Summer's Service in the close of it, with giving into your hands a place of such Strength, Value and Importance, as the City of Limerick, I thought it my duty hereby to give you an account of it, and present to your view the Conditions 1 on which it is Surrendred to you, wherewith I thought it not amiss to send also a Copy of the Conditions which about the end of June and beginning of July last, were thought fit by advice of your Councel of War, here with me to be tendered to the Soldiery and people within (if they would have Surrendred then, but were rejected) by both which being compared together (as you will see them in enclosed Papers) you may finde how far God suffered them to be hardened then to their own loss in the issue, and hath made their Obstinacy then and since, serve to your greater advantage at last, not onely in point of Freedom for prosecution of Justice, one of the great Ends and best Grounds (before God and men) of the War you have maintained here; and in point of safety to English Planters, and the settling and securing of the Commonwealth's Interest in this Nation; but also in respect of valuable benefit to the State, which in the value  p.266 of Arms and Ammunition, with some Goods of excepted persons, and of the Houses and Lands of the rest by the first Conditions tendered, in great part to have been granted away, but by these at last reserved clearly in your power) may be some considerable Compensation for your charge in the Four months longer Siege: For the length whereof, and detaining so great a part of your Forces from any other work considerable in all this Summer past, I can at this distance give onely this account at present, That it pleased God after that loss he left us to in the attempt upon the Island (which had it succeeded, had given us an easie way and visible advantage for a speedy attempt of the City by way of Force, that hath since been fully provided against by their industrious working) not to incline the hearts of our Officers at any of the Councels of War held since for that purpose, to think a way of present force against the place advisable, but onely to provide by way of Siege to starve them, until of late (after we had largely provided both for security and subsistence of a sufficient part of the Army (through Gods blessing) to have attended the Siege unto a far longer issue of extremity, finding the supposition of their sudden falling into want (which was conceived would have been in two Months, or three at the most, and so have given us some competent season for the work remaining) to fail us; and finding also some hopeful advantage for an attempt by way of Battery, at a place we had little observed before (God having as it were till very lately hid the advantage of it from our eyes) we resolved at last to try that way, whether it would please God (by the apprehensions of present danger to them in the way of force, added to the foresight of more certain extremity by Famine at last, though the other should fail) so to work upon their hearts within, as might induce a present Surrender before extremity of Winter, and so save your sickly Army from the hazards and hardships of a Winter's Siege: And since this Resolution taken, sending to several places as speedily as we could for some more Battering-Guns to recruit our Train (in lieu of those so carelesly lost at Clare, as I suppose you have heard) so soon as we had a number of them competent for such a work, we began our Approaches in one night, and finished our Batteries and planted our Guns the second, and next morning began to Batter; whereupon they presently sent out to give us assurance they would accept our Conditions for the matter (which upon an overture of Treaty about three weeks ago we had tendred them, and about which they had sent out Commissioners since from time to time, still continuing or renuing the Treaty, but with no effect; and that day sending out Commissioners to us again in the evening, to have the Articles perfected in Circumstances) we came to a conclusion upon them by the next morning; we cannot tell whether the danger of present Force, or foresight of want did more incline them, but finde clearly that Divisions and Distractions within (which God alone had wrought amongst them) were most prevalent towards the Surrender: There marched out at the Surrender about Twelve or thirteen hundred Officers and Soldiers in pay (being decreased in the Siege to that number, from about Two thousand by the best account we had) and we finde yet in the Town, I believe, no less then Four thousand men able to bear Arms. It appears still very Populous, though since we came last before it, they have lost, as they account to us, above Five thousand Souls, what through the Sword without, and the Famine and Plague within (the last whereof is still violent  p.267 amongst them, to the great endangering your Soldiery here, if God by distinguishing mercy prevent not) and this way, as well as in the outstanding of better Conditions from us, God hath rendred their Obstinacy a scourge to themselves, and made us in the way he saw it good to incline us to a means to keep them under his own more immediate and righteous Judgement. We have about Three thousand to five hundred Foot Arms already delivered up and brought into stores for your service, and Eighty three Barrels of Powder, with some store of other Ammunition, and some Pistols and old Saddles, but no Horses. We hope to finde yet more Arms and Ammunition, and intend speedily to clear the place of a multitude of People that are most dangerous (either in Quality or Infection) and by degrees it may be rendred more English, as you or your ministers shall finde opportunity of Planters, though there are now divers of the now Inhabitants (and some persons of Quality amongst them) whose carriage all along towards the English People and Interest, and particularly in this surrender, may deserve your admittance to continue here, and favorable dealing in point of their Estates. Of the persons excepted from quarter there was onely the Governor Hugh O'Neill and ten more, whose names are mentioned in the enclosed note, that rendred themselves at our mercy, none of which we have yet executed, nor are yet well resolved how to deal with them, though I suppose we shall see cause to execute some of them in a Military way, in relation to the holding out of the place, and for terrors to others; and there are others of them fit to be reserved for examples of Justice in a Judicial way, in relation to the first Rebellion and Murthers. But it hath pleased God since the surrender, providentially to discover and deliver into our hands, three persons of principal Activity and Influence in the obstinate holding out (the last years) Major, the Bishop of Emley, and Major General Purcell; all whom we presently hanged, and have set up their heads on the gates; the two latter being original Incendiaries of the Rebellion and Mischiefs in it, or prime Engagers therein, and also one Captain Welsh a priest, whom we have not yet executed, but I think shall. Now besides the real importance and advantage of this place towards the further carrying on or ending the War, and the settling and securing of your Interest in this Nation (if God see it good) it is not unhopeful that the terror and sad example of it may so work upon other places remaining (through God's blessing) as to hasten or facilitate the reducement of them, as much as the long detaining us at this Siege hath retarded it, save that the winter season and difficulty of subsisting now (for Horse or men) in the Field, about their remaining Garisons, may give them so much breathing time, as to digest and forget this example. However, it was a Mercy most seasonable, in relation to the present condition of your Men, and state of your Affairs in this Land (as well as great in effect) that this place was now Surrendred to you on such Terms; and God doth (by the extremity of Winter weather, ever since our Agreement, whereas he had till then, favored us with a more dry and gentle Season then hath been ordinarily known before for so long time together, and so late in the year) make it appear more feeling to be so. And you (as we that serve you here) may accordingly adde it to the account of those other great Blessings and Deliverances, and more glorious Workings of God's good hand towards you this year in England and Scotland, which you have to acknowledge to the Praise of His  p.268 Great Name, and improve to His further Honor and Service in the advancement of Righteousness and Truth in the Three Nations, and furthering the Exaltation of all that is indeed the Interest of the Lord Jesus Christ, who hath so graciously owned, and thus far Upheld and Established yours. Now that you, and those that serve and partake with you in these things, may be both intent to consider and seek, and taught of him more and more what maner of persons we ought to be, and what to do for his Name, and made (through his greater Grace) both really to be, and faithfully to do in some sort more answerable to such peculiar Favors of his, and Experiences or Testimonies thereof towards us, and preserved by him from the many Snares and Temptations, attending such Advantages to such corrupt Natures, is still the heart's desire and prayer of him, who hath been very little, and grows less able otherwise to serve you.

Your most humble Servant,

H. Ireton.

Document details

The TEI Header

File description

Title statement

Title (uniform): A Letter from the Lord Deputy-General of Ireland upon Surrender of Limerick, 1651

Author: Henry Ireton

Editor: John T. Gilbert

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Proof corrections by: Olivia Lardner

Edition statement

1. First draft, revised and corrected.

Extent: 3000 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of the History Department, University College Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland — http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2009

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E650001-024

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Secondary literature

  1. Esmond de Beer, 'The death of Henry Ireton', Notes and Queries 176 (1939) 390–391.
  2. R. W. Ramsey, Henry Ireton. London 1949.
  3. J. G. Simms, 'Hugh Dubh O'Neill's defence of Limerick, 1650-1'. Irish Sword 3:2 (1957/58) 115–123.
  4. Howard Shaw, 'Henry Ireton', History Today 20 (1970) 246–254.
  5. David Farr, Henry Ireton and the English Revolution, Woodbridge 2006.
  6. Mícheál Ó Siochrú, Atrocity, Codes of Conduct and the Irish in the British Civil Wars 1641–1653, Past & Present 195/1 (2007) 55–86.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘Colonel Henry O’Neill’s relation of transactions of General Owen Neill and his party’ (1880). In: A Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland from 1641 to 1652‍. Ed. by John T. Gilbert. Vol. 3. Dublin: Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society, pp. 265–268.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {John T. Gilbert},
  title 	 = {Colonel Henry O'Neill's relation of transactions of General Owen Neill and his party},
  booktitle 	 = {A Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland from 1641 to 1652},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  publisher 	 = {Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society},
  date 	 = {1880},
  volume 	 = {3},
  pages 	 = {265–268}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The present text covers pages 265–268 of the volume in the Appendix.

Editorial declarations

Correction: Text has been proof-read twice and parsed.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text. Older spellings like O Neill without apostroph, reflecting Irish usage, are silently brought into line with current English usage, i.e. O'Neill etc. Obsolete and variant spellings, including those of place-names, are retained in the text itself, but in the XML markup regularized forms are given, using the orig reg="" element, in the value of the 'reg' attribute. Text supplied by the editor, J.T. Gilbert, is marked sup resp="JTG". In HTML format, supplied text is displayed in italics. Words and phrases in languages other than English are tagged; dates are tagged. Personal names are not encoded in this edition; this is envisaged at a later stage.

Quotation: Direct speech is tagged q.

Hyphenation: Soft hyphens are silently removed. When a hyphenated word (and subsequent punctuation mark) crosses a page-break, this break is marked after the completion of the word (and punctuation mark).

Segmentation: div0=the correspondence. Page-breaks are marked pb n="".

Standard values: Dates are standardized in the ISO form yyyy-mm-dd.

Interpretation: Dates are tagged.

Profile description

Creation: by Henry Ireton, Lord Deputy-General of Ireland

Date: 3 November 1651

Language usage

  • The text is in seventeenth-century English. (en)

Keywords: histor; military; political; letter; 17c; Confederate wars; surrender of Limerick

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2019-06-05: Changes made to div0 type. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2009-04-23: Header modified; new SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2009-03-04: SGML and HTML versions created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2009-02-02: File parsed; bibliography compiled. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2008-11-11: Header created, file proofed (2); structural and some content markup applied, including variant spellings and place-names. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  6. 2008-10-28: File proofed (1); page-breaks added. (ed. Olivia Lardner, Galway)
  7. 2008-10-15: Text captured. (ed. Beatrix Färber)

Index to all documents

Standardisation of values

CELT Project Contacts



For details of the markup, see the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI)

page of the print edition

folio of the manuscript

numbered division

 999 line number of the print edition (in grey: interpolated)

underlining: text supplied, added, or expanded editorially

italics: foreign words; corrections (hover to view); document titles

bold: lemmata (hover for readings)

wavy underlining: scribal additions in another hand; hand shifts flagged with (hover to view)

TEI markup for which a representation has not yet been decided is shown in red: comments and suggestions are welcome.

Source document


Search CELT

  1. See A Letter from the Lord Deputy-General of Ireland upon Surrender of Limerick, 1651, p. 241, in CELT file E650001-001. 🢀


2 Carrigside, College Road, Cork